Thriving in the Experience Economy
Customer’s expectations have undoubtedly changed. Think of yourself as the customer and audit how you judge each company you provide business to. Drawing a common thread through these will show you what you perhaps inadvertently look for — friendly environment? Funny employees? Prompt service? Autonomy? Free cookies?
Then, take a look at the leading companies succeeding in today’s on-demand and constantly changing business landscapes: Amazon, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, L.L.Bean. What do they all have in common? Consistency-rich experiences.
And that’s what their customers like you and me are purchasing. Some recent studies suggest experience is bought over the product a company is selling. This isn’t the least bit shocking to those who have had their finger on the pulse of the CX trend, but yet, there is an enormous adoption lag for most companies — big or small — to put a rich experience on the table every single time their customer interacts with the brand. In short, there has been a lot of talk about what comprises great CX, what metrics should be used to track it, and even how to implement a CX program, but given it’s proven return, why are companies not scrambling to invest in this revenue driver?
Maybe we need more convincing. As fast as the business world moves and in no small part of technology, adoption of new strategies and mindsets does tend to lag. Partially, this could be because companies don’t see a “problem” or “gap” that needs additional investment in this area.
Another part is because many companies, in my opinion:
- Don’t fully understand what kind of experience their customers want
- Think the current experience meets their customers’ needs because perhaps sales are consistently hitting their goals
- Are measuring CX with the wrong metrics (or not measuring it at all)
A New Age: The Experience Economy
Like with most things, the way of looking at something is a necessary first step. Collectively, business perspectives need to change. While the ears of business executives perk up when they hear about new ways to positively drive revenue, there hasn’t been enough on a mass scale to truly prioritize experience. If a company is not offering a rich experience, they are risking quite a bit: reputation, loyalty, retention, room for the competition to take the lead, and much more.
Theresa Delgado, Director of Customer Experience, OpenWater (photo used with permission)
“Customer experience has to be key,” says Theresa Delgado, CX director at OpenWater. “It has to be one of the main goals and one of the key things that an organization has to focus on because at any day a happy customer can leave you. Anyone can come into this space, disrupt it, and come up with new options, new features, and just a new way of doing things. You have to be in sync with what your customers and what your prospects and leads are asking for and what they’re looking for.”
Businesses tend to fall into the trap of looking at customers as dollar signs or numbers, and often forget the significant aspect of what comprises a meaningful relationship. The look and feel of such has drastically changed because of the means of how we communicate and forge lasting connections albeit through digital means. But while society has adapted, companies have not.
“Experience now, actually building and growing that relationship and having that one-to-one interaction with your clients, is the key change,” says Delgado.
Living and working in this new economic environment with experience as a foundation frees up time, energy, and money resources to focus on building and sustaining pleasing customer experiences. This can also mean that for many companies using “it’s not part of our strategy” as an excuse can no longer just get by with the product they’re selling.
Reaching Millennials Revolves Around Rich Experiences
There’s no doubt that the generation considered Millennials — aged 18-34 — are turning the way business, advertising, and communication operate upside down. Connection with this generation is paramount, as they have buying homes, having families, and growing their career. The way they look at businesses is much different than the generations that precede them. And as such, it can be argued that this generation is single-handedly shaping this very idea of an experience economy.
“Being able to have platforms that actually respond to the way that we [Millennials] communicate now with emojis, memes, and gifs, I think that’s one way to be able to create that rich experience,” says Delgado. “It’s still business talk, but then it’s a more meaningful business talk.”
Significant Disruption: Experience Over Goods
Let’s bring this into context. Statistics indicate that the Millennial generation’s median age to marry is 30, up from 23 in the 1970s. Traditions for soon-to-be wed couples includes building a wedding registry where wedding guests can pick from and purchase a new appliance for the happy couple — a toaster, a new china set, maybe even a piece of furniture.
“Millennials are more likely to be established and living on their own prior to marriage, therefore they are more likely to own home items that would traditionally be on a registry,” says blogger Keith Sly of the restaurant The Manor, a popular venue in West Orange, New Jersey that has hosted weddings since the 1950s. “Millennials tend to value experiences and so it’s common for a registry to include concert tickets or tickets to a coffee convention.”
I have been invited to handfuls of weddings just this past year. Being in the median age of the Millennial generation myself, I see this shift first-hand — not to mention; I fully embrace it. I don’t get the couple a gift chosen from a long list of registered items at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or snag them the latest dinnerware from Macy’s — most couples I know don’t include a registry notification on their digital invites. I contribute to their honeymoon through Honeyfunds, for example — paying for a massage in the French countryside or buying them tickets to the opera, a sporting event at their destination, or a guided tour. That way, as the guest, I feel like I can be a part of their experience rather than an item that likely collects more dust than use over time. As the couple, the honeymoon is one less expense they have to worry about.
To second Sly’s commentary, statistics on this generation’s buying habits trigger significant change for companies to meet their needs and expectations.
For Businesses, Experience Should Be Controlled by Marketing
Yes, despite what level of experience a company offers, there needs to be a great product. But, if you’re reading this post, that’s not the issue you’re facing. You’re seeking ways to improve the experience you offer.
Research suggests that it takes nearly a dozen positive experiences to remedy one unresolved negative experience. And those negative experiences tend to have the loudest voices with the easiest and fastest outlets to spread said anger and discontent — social media.
Marketing leaders at your organization should be sitting down regularly to adjust their quarterly strategies throughout the funnel — from brand awareness and acquisition, onboarding, adoption, growth and renewal. Throughout that entire journey, customer experience should be paramount.
“There are many opportunities to influence customer experiences,” says Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group and author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. “It starts with understanding how, when and why customers are engaging with your brand, then finding ways to create new value with every interaction.”
I’d like to emphasize every interaction. When you go to a dinner party, you don’t expect your hosts only to greet you when you first arrive; you expect them to wine and dine you throughout the night, so you leave with a good experience. It’s no different when marketing sends messages, campaigns, and advertisements to your prospects and customers.
When positioned correctly and communicated using the right means for your target audience, you will see favorable results from “selling” an experience that is in tandem with your product or service.
If you need the inspiration to get started, just think of the best and worst times you’ve had with companies, make a trusty pros and cons list and book a meeting with the leaders of your organization to hit the ground running. Make sure to include marketing in that conversation.